The place where my grandfather lies, alongside his father and mother, their parents, my uncles, and generations of other relatives is in a patch of land on the hillside of a hamlet in the occupied West Bank. My last memory of him was seeing him leave to go “home” after being diagnosed with cancer almost 20 years ago. Standing now at the green gate where my roots lie, I see the sign for a prayer: “Peace be unto you, the people of this abode from the believers and those who submitted, and we are, by the will of Allah, following you. We ask Allah for your and our pardon.”
When I first set out on my trip here, visiting the cemetery was indeed something I put on my itinerary, along side my visit to Jerusalem’s holy sites, my grandmother’s nearly century old home, and my colleague in Haifa. I made many past visits here as a child, but naturally those experiences felt only like a dream with me being too young to absorb every detail. Now, I am bringing my own young ones along, carrying balloons that we had blown to keep us occupied during the hours long wait at the airport. On the drive from the airport to town, I noticed a large red warning sign: “This road leads to area A under the Palestinian Authority. The entrance for Israeli citizens in forbidden, dangerous to your lives, and is against the Israeli law.” Curiously, our driver is now at ease, feeling less threatened, knowing we had driven away from most of the Israeli settlements.
We arrived tired and weary from the long trip with young children, but already excited about the new experiences we were having. Maryam was already making friends, first with Daniel, the nice boy she colored with on the airplane, and now with my uncle who she recognized from all the Eid visits he made to us in NJ. The following day we woke up to amazing hospitality, and a delicious breakfast made of fresh, local, handmade ingredients: fresh cheese, free-range livestock, home grown and pressed olive oil, fresh bread, freshly picked plums, cucumbers, and squash. It was normal to everyone else, but nothing short of extraordinary to me. I was already seeing the signs of great blessings, the beauty of this land, and beginning to understand why my grandfather so badly wanted to be buried here. This is just the beginning of what promises to be a journey of great rediscovery.
To be continued…
Dalal is a chemist and mother of two from NJ. Her passions lie in healthy cooking, connecting with like-minded moms, shopping for a bargain, and obsessively keeping up with current events.